Posted by Adam Malanaphy, Project Coordinator at Glenmont Group
In order to be an effective recruiter in today’s rapidly changing professional landscape one must understand the cross cultural differences amongst the people within it. A study on cross cultural behavior that was conducted at The University of Texas of Austin entitled “Cultural Retention” provides valuable insight into the act of gift giving in the context of two vastly different cultures. Focus groups composed of six American students and six Japanese students, (who were studying in the US) were used to reveal differences in the process of gift giving between the cultures of the East vs. the cultures of the West. These groups of six were evenly split between male and female to avoid offsetting the results. The group members were each asked a series of questions pertaining to the use and frequency of gift giving and these results were interpreted and analyzed in order to draw any relevant conclusions. The responses that were attained provide an example of how such a basic aspect of one’s behavior can drastically vary between cultures.
As the questions were answered by the members of the focus groups, a trend began to emerge of strong individualism in the American students and a stronger emphasis of group based thinking in the Japanese students. Some of the results suggest that Americans receive satisfaction from gift giving only when all of the givers personal needs are already gratified. This statement leads one to believe that Americans are more likely to attend to their own needs first, as opposed to the Japanese who interpret gift giving as an intrinsic aspect of their lives. When the panelists were given a question asking when they felt it was appropriate to exchange gifts the results provided a clear distinction between the two groups. The Japanese students compiled a list of twenty four gift giving occasions ranging from birthdays, to exams, and even funerals. On the contrary, the Americans compiled their list containing only eleven occasions, all of which were far more apparent such as Christmas and graduation. These results do not surprise me; however they certainly highlight the fact that Americans place a greater value on individualism than the more group-oriented Japanese.
When the two groups were questioned about the techniques they employed to pick out and actually give those gifts, more differences emerged. It became clear that it is not just how often gifts are given. The Americans described their shopping as a casual event that can be stressful around the holidays, while they viewed their experience as a formal affair that is not at all stressful because it is so frequent. With regards to presentation of the gift the Japanese are meticulous about wrapping and showing satisfaction for their gift. On the other hand Americans did not always feel the need to wrap their gifts and found it socially acceptable to express their true feelings about their gift.
This study provides useful information to anyone in recruiting who is concerned with cultural differences in the space. Even though globalization has become more prevalent than ever, these different cultures have managed to retain their distinctive values. As I began my career in recruiting at Glenmont Group, Inc., one of the principals that I was taught from the beginning was to try to understand the most prevalent cultural standards that exist within the litigation technology space. Analyzing one small disparity on a micro level helps to shed light on how careful recruiters must be as we conduct business across cultural boarders. In order to achieve success in recruiting one must recognize differences across cultural boundaries, incorporate this recognition into daily interactions, and implement this procedure in the most effective way possible to help overcome them.